MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) - An outbreak of gastrointestinal illness aboard Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" has forced the cruise line to cut short the ship's ten day trip through the Caribbean.
The Miami-based company made the announcement a few hours after officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boarded the Explorer of the Seas during its U.S. Virgin Islands port call.
"After consultation between our medical team and representatives of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we think the right thing to do is to bring our guests home early, and use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly. We are sorry for disappointing our guests, and we are taking several steps to compensate them for their inconvenience," said a statement on the company's website.
The CDC said earlier that 281, or nearly 10 percent, of the 3,050 passengers aboard the 15-deck ship reported getting sick during the cruise that left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Tuesday. Twenty-two crew members also reported feeling ill, according to a Friday statement from the health agency.
"At this point, it appears that reported illnesses among guests and crew peaked during the first few days of the cruise – though, as is common with many illnesses, some additional cases are to be expected over the course of the week. Our doctors tell us symptoms are consistent with that of norovirus, but that they are awaiting the results of tests to confirm that diagnosis,"," Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said in a statement.
Fast-spreading norovirus is often to blame for similar symptoms sweeping closed quarters like those on cruise ships.
Royal Caribbean said special cleaning products and disinfectants proven to kill norovirus were being used to clean ship before it returned to the U.S. It said a full sanitization program would be carried out after the Explorer of the Seas reached its home port Wednesday.
Royal Caribbean said it was "taking several steps" to compensate passengers for the shortened trip. It also sought to assure customers scheduled for the ship's next voyage that "all possible measures will have been taken to prevent further problems."
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